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tv   Dateline NBC  NBC  April 26, 2015 7:00pm-9:01pm PDT

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>> suddenly there was a man with his arm around my neck and a gun to my head. i shoved my purse into his chest and i said "jesus save me!" the bullet shot me right in the head. lord jesus help me! oh my god help me! >> reporter: a sweet stay-at-home mom shot point blank at the door! >> very traumatic to see. a very, very emotional time. >> i didn't know if i would live! >> reporter: an awful random crime, or did someone want her dead? >> someone was out there? >> yeah. we were scared. >> reporter: faith and infidelity. >> there were several text messages.
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it's just slowly snowballing. >> it was like a punch in the gut! >> reporter: sins and secrets! >> i'm mean! i'm gonna hurtchoo! >> i'm like, "damn! what did this lady do?" >> this is just like something you'd see in a movie ♪ >> reporter: carrollton, texas, just north of dallas, is the kind of place where the upwardly mobile go to buy their dreams. the schools are good. golf courses dot the landscape. and churches are more ubiquitous than starbucks. >> there's not a whole lot of -- violent crime in that area. great area to raise kids and a family. >> reporter: but travel east a hundred miles or so and you enter the piney woods of east texas. jobs are not as plentiful here, dreams are deferred and some keep bail bondsmen on speed dial.
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>> all the people we're dealing here with are poor. there's a lot of drugs, lotta methamphetamine out there. >> reporter: different cultures -- worlds apart. and yet one summer those two worlds collided in a most unlikely way. this is the story of that summer when money seemed to fall like tickertape on the piney woods. and an affluent carrollton family experienced the kind of violent crime that had always happened somewhere else. >> god, help me. >> yes, ma'am. >> help me. help me. >> i need you to call me immediately. your mom is in the hospital with a gunshot wound." and i'm like, "i'm sorry, what?!" >> each day, we'd look at each other, michael and i, and just say, "we can't make this up." >> reporter: our story begins in august 2012. >> can you believe it? 100 degrees again this afternoon. >> reporter: it was the kind of heat that melts asphalt and has everyone searching the sky for
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some sign of mercy. but in carrollton, 52 year old frank howard wasn't sweating it. frank was an accountant. his life was good -- and getting better by the day. >> i took on a new client. and that would have been probably in 2009. >> very wealthy client. >> yes. >> what did that come along with, those perks? >> well, the wealthy client, you know, he had -- you know, his own airplanes. and so i guess for the first time, probably -- you know, flyin' around in private planes and you know goin' to cowboy games. >> reporter: as they say in texas, frank howard was standing in high cotton. >> i was still, you know, the same old guy. but it was definitely doing some fun things as well. >> reporter: frank had come a long way since his days as a preacher's son growing up in south central texas. >> very conservative upbringing. you know, there was no -- you and cussing. you know, i never -- you know, i never been to the dance, you know, the school prom.
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i never did any of that kind of stuff. but at the same time, you know, wanting to be just very down to earth, very honest and try to be the best person you can be. >> reporter: solid values to last a lifetime. but it wasn't all smooth sailing. in college, frank had a brief marriage that ended in divorce. eventually, he fell in love with a girl from his church. her name was nancy shore. a brunette with dazzling blue eyes. >> it was a great time. you know, i still look back at that and think it was a good time. >> reporter: frank's father married the happy couple in 1983 and two years later they had their first child, a daughter they named ashley. >> that wasn't an easy birth? >> no. >> there were -- there were problems. >> yeah, yeah, there were complications. she spent the first ten days of her life in the -- in the neonatal unit at the hospital. >> reporter: it was a close call but one that seemed to deepen and enrich the couple's faith.
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soon the family grew to include a son, jay, and another daughter, brianna. >> growing up was great. i had a wonderful older sister and older brother who had kind of helped guide me through stuff. and then obviously a wonderful mom and dad. >> reporter: eldest daughter ashley says that whatever the howard family did, they did together. >> both our parents did choir in church, anytime they needed a family, it was like, "oh, get the howards, they'll come and, like, bring all the kids." >> we were -- you know, always together, always a family. we went to all of their events. they -- they were busy, they were always doing something. i mean, whether it was, you know, soccer or -- you know, anything in the fine arts, musically. >> you guys almost do sound like "leave it to beaver." >> oh, we joke -- >> yeah -- >> -- like, that we were the cleavers. ♪ >> hi beaver. >> hi mom. >> and jay was beaver. i was beavette. [ laughter ]
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brianna was beaverly. we had howard family variety night. >> yeah, we would have game nights and we would -- >> yeah. >> -- have, you know -- >> legitimately, the cleaver family. >> yeah, absolutely. >> reporter: but by 2012, those days were gone. frank and nancy were now empty nesters. ashley and her brother jay were each married and on their own. brianna was in college in nashville. >> you were so close with your kids. was it hard as one by one they started leaving the nest and going off to college? >> sure, yeah it was. i mean, i'm proud of 'em, but it was -- it was difficult. i mean, change is difficult. >> reporter: now nancy was often home alone. frank's work with his new client -- a wealthy defense contractor -- had him traveling to florida, california even kuwait. >> there was a little bit more, you know, freedom or whatever. and like i said, a lot of it was work. and so you know, i was out there trying to kinda build it. and she was sitting at home. >> reporter: still nancy had her
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faith and church activities to fill the empty hours. in fact -- that's where she'd been the evening everything changed for the howard family. it was a saturday night august 18, 2012. >> you're out of town. >> yes. >> you get a call that something horrific has happened to nancy, there's been a robbery at your own house. >> yes. i was just beside myself. i didn't know, you know, what -- what was happening. >> reporter: and so began one of the longest nights of frank howard's life. >> help me! >> reporter: a harrowing cry for help. terror was at the front door. >> i'm like her mother, that makes no sense. >> almost like it wasn't real? >> yeah, like it wasn't real. no preservatives. no added colors. no artificial flavors.
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>> reporter: after months of
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broiling temperatures the afternoon of august 18th, 2012 brought the welcome sound of summer rain to carrollton, texas. but shortly before 8 o'clock that evening the sound of a gunshot split the night. a 911 operator picked up the phone and heard a woman's anguished cry. >> lord jesus, help me. oh, my god. help me. oh, jesus, help me, >> reporter: the woman said she had just been shot, in the head, by an intruder in her garage. >> i've been shot. please help me. >> what's the address ma'am? >> reporter: the caller, was frank's wife, nancy howard. she'd somehow managed to drag herself into the house and in spite of taking a bullet in the head, she was able to give critical details to the 911 dispatcher. >> how many people was it? >> its just one that i'm aware of. can you please stay on the phone? >> oh yes ma'am i'm gonna stay on the phone with you till they get there. >> reporter: a few minutes later, carrollton police officers arrived at the home on bluebonnet way.
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remarkable as it sounds, nancy managed to open the front door for them. >> it's the police? >> yes, ma'am. >> god, help me. >> yes, ma'am. >> help me. help me. help me. help. >> reporter: soon carrollton police detectives michael wall and bryan turner were on the case. >> it's just incredible how she was able to give the information to the dispatcher about what had happened, and then be able to wait for the police at the front door. >> this was a really bloody crime scene. >> there was quite a bit of blood, yes. >> reporter: there was a small hole just above nancy's left eye. she was struggling for breath, and her vital signs were slipping. as paramedics rushed her to parkland hospital in dallas, detective wall turned his attention to the crime scene. >> you could see exactly where she had gone through the house. >> reporter: the garage and the hallway leading into the house were bloody. but the rest of the house appeared to have been untouched. >> the suspects had taken nancy's purse. >> did you have any reason to
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believe when you arrived that this was anything other than a burglary gone bad? >> we didn't have any other reason to suspect that it was anything other than -- than an aggravated robbery given the information that nancy had given us. >> what details did you get from that 911 call specifically? >> nancy was able to give us suspect description of the person that shot her. it was a white male. he was wearin' a black hat. the suspect was in his 20s. >> reporter: police officers could find no one in the neighborhood who'd seen or heard anything. >> it had been raining significantly and so obviously when it rains, people are inside. there's no witnesses, and so we basically had nothin' to go -- go on. >> reporter: no witnesses. and precious little in the way of leads. they wondered if the shooting was part of a pattern of crimes in the area. it seemed unlikely but they couldn't rule it out. >> there had been some break-ins in the area. >> there was some -- some home break-ins that we were lookin' at to see if they may be related
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to this offense. but at this point, we were kinda checkin' out everything to see if there was anything that may be related to this. >> but there had not been any robberies where people are actually bein' robbed at gunpoint for their -- for their property. >> reporter: the cops knew they had to notify nancy's family. but as it turned out, her husband was out of town. a police officer who belonged to the howard's church got word to nancy's eldest daughter, ashley. >> it's a close friend of my mom's calling to say your mom is in the hospital with a gunshot wound." and i'm like, "i'm sorry, what?!" so -- >> that must be the most -- >> yeah, it's -- >> --bizarre phone call. >> just the weirdest phone call. like, it was -- it was not even, like, scary or worrisome. it was more, like, so confu -- like, we just couldn't cross the hurdle of where she could've been to get shot. >> almost like it wasn't real? >> yeah. like, it wasn't real and it's just like, this -- "our mother? that -- that just makes no sense." like she's not the type a lady that's gonna get shot, you know. >> reporter: ashley finally reached her father in california with the news. >> i was in south lake tahoe. at the casino, whenever i got
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that. and i was taking a break and noticed that i had missed a call from my daughter. and so i stepped outside and -- and called her back. and then that's when i found out that something had happened. >> how does he react to this situation? >> he couldn't speak. i mean, he couldn't breathe. and it was like, "okay, dad, who is with you? because you are not in good shape." "okay, i'm gonna drive to the airport." i'm like, "no, no, nah. you're not driving to the airport. get someone to take you." >> reporter: more than two hundred miles from the nearest airport, frank was desperate to and so then i was on the phone trying to find flights out and trying to figure out, you know, what to do and how to do it and when to do it. >> reporter: it was six o'clock the next morning before frank howard could finally board a plane headed home. he could only imagine the nightmare that awaited him once he landed in texas. >> my dad collapsed on the ground. he was in terrible shape. >> reporter: as doctors race to save her, her family races to her side.
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>> reporter: frank howard arrived home in dallas the morning after his wife was shot. his daughter ashley says he looked awful when she finally saw him. they drove to the hospital together and by the time they got there, he could hardly walk. >> ashley and i hear just, like, this crash. and i look back and my dad has, like, collapsed on the ground. he was in terrible shape. and every time the little monitors would beep, he was jumpy. i mean, just terrible shape. >> was he in tears? >> yeah. >> yeah. >> tell me what happened the first time you saw nancy in the icu. >> it was a difficult time.
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she was real, you know, drugged up. but all the family and the a lot of people from the church and stuff were there. >> reporter: doctors told the family the bullet had entered nancy's skull just above her left eye and traveled downward through her sinuses and throat before it collapsed one of her lungs. she'd already had the first of many surgeries. she would lose one of her blue eyes, but luckily, she seemed to have escaped serious brain damage. >> there's tubes, there's wires, there's lines. so, even though you can say, "she's all right." >> uh-huh. >> it's like, "it doesn't look like --" >> "it's not all right." >> "-- she's all right," you know? >> uh-huh. >> and, you know, there's swelling. there's inflammation all over. there's things attached to her feet. so, it's kind of hard to feel like, "okay, this is okay and this is right." >> it was very traumatic to see -- to see that happen to her. you know, very difficult. very, very emotional time. >> was she able to talk to you the first time you saw her? >> i don't believe so, she had tubes in her throat and i --
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she was conscious, and so she had knowledge of, kinda of who we were, but she really couldn't talk or anything. >> reporter: while the family waited for some definitive word from the police on what had happened, they filled the void with theories of their own. >> everybody you know, in the family were. sitting around talking about it, that's, you know, we were -- we were trying to figure out what happened and how it happened. and we didn't have any idea. >> someone was out there. >> yeah. yeah, we were scared. >> reporter: there had been a series of break-ins in the area. did that cross your mind? >> that was one of the things that came up. i think, i believe the detectives or whatever, had told us there had been break-ins. in fact, they had somebody that fit kinda, the general description. that he was someone that they knew of that had, had participated in some break-ins in the area. >> reporter: detectives wall and turner were eager to talk to nancy. >> she's our only witness to this offense. we just had the minimal suspect description at this time. and so, we felt it was important
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to confirm those details with her as soon as possible. >> reporter: while they waited for nancy to get well enough to speak, they called in frank hoping he could fill in some of the blanks. >> can you update me on her condition, what the doctors have said? >> yes. uh, actually very, i mean it's sounds bad when you say, "somebody's shot in the head," but, but actually, very, very good. >> he had confirmed that she had actually lost her left eye. >> no brain damage. no, you know, none of that. so she'll lose her left eye, but, but from there, it will be, um -- cosmetic stuff. >> reporter: detective wall asked if frank knew anyone who might want to hurt his wife. >> what i know about her, it doesn't seem that she would have any problems with anybody. has she had any problems with anybody? >> oh, no. absolutely not. >> reporter: in fact, everyone knew that nancy had a soft spot for anyone with a sob story. >> nancy can be, uh --
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real, giving and -- and uh -- and open. >> reporter: it was not unusual, he said, for her to pick up a hitchhiker or open her door to a stranger. a month or two earlier, she'd done just that. >> somebody came to the door. and they just needed money to get a hotel room, because their car broke down. >> uh-huh. >> and -- and nancy. >> they came to -- to your house? >> to the house. yeah, at the front door, and nancy told them uh -- she's just so, um --good heart -- i mean, she's -- she just said, uh, that uh -- that she would help, try to help them find a hotel room. >> reporter: maybe that's what happened. a good hearted woman befriended a dangerous stranger. the howard children thought that was a distinct possibility. >> that was my first thought was, oh, she -- she probably was willing to help someone at some point, and they figured out, "okay, this woman is an easy target." >> could your mom be naive when it came to these people and -- and this helping nature she had?
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>> yeah, definitely. i think that sometimes her, her willingness to see the good in everybody, it opened her up to more risk than most other people would take. >> reporter: frank didn't know much because he was out of town that night. >> doesn't sound like frank is really able to help you with anything. he's just -- >> he doesn't. he just -- >> -- being cooperative. >> he is being cooperative. he confirms that he had actually sent a few texts and emails back and forth to nancy, and knew that she was goin' to the church service. and so, in order to confirm that, i asked if i could see his cell phone. >> would you have a problem if we uh, ran an analysis on your cell phone? >> no. >> reporter: in addition to turning over his cell phone, frank told the cops to let him know if they needed anything else from him. anything at all. he even offered money to generate leads. >> i mean, if, if there's, you know, you put up a reward, or do anything like that, i'll be -- >> ok. >> i'll, uh --. >> again --. [ talking over each other ] >> whatever. but i'm --. >> once we get to the point where we've exhausted every, all of our investigative leads, um, that's another step we would take.
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>> i'm just saying, just -- whatever we need to do. >> 'cause obviously money can, uh, prompt people to do, to give information. >> reporter: at the hospital, doctors were optimistic about nancy's condition. she was still in intensive care, but making progress. there was every reason to believe that she'd be able to tell her own story in a day or two. 3 f2 >> a continuación. >> reporter: nancy's dramatic story and what exactly did she remember about that night. >> no pity, no emotion. he looked intent on doing what he came to do. holding me back, i can feel it.
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>> reporter: nancy howard lay in parkland hospital's intensive care unit sedated and surrounded by blinking, beeping machines. a breathing tube prevented her from speaking but her daughters say she could still communicate. >> she used to do sign language, so she knows how to spell. so, like, bri and i know how to spell a little bit. so, she's over there, like, doing stuff with, like, the bottom of her hand. and i'm like, "okay, she's spelling something. crap! brianna, what -- what is that letter again?" >> yeah. >> and then anytime somebody would say something, you know, she'd beat her hand on the pillow to be, like, "no, no, no." we're like, "okay, put our spelling caps on." >> reporter: nancy's recovery was remarkably speedy. just days after she was shot in the head at close range, she was able to get out of bed -- take a few steps -- and best of all -- the breathing tube was removed. the howard family rejoiced. finally nancy could speak. >> do you consider it a miracle? >> oh, absolutely. [ laughter ] there's -- there's no explanation except my heavenly
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father was there. >> what did she say to you when she finally was able to speak? >> it was just, you know, "i love you, glad you're here," i mean, that was the -- the sense that we were both saying to each other. >> reporter: and then it was time for business. detectives wall and turner wanted to know every last detail of that night. it began at nancy's church. >> i had a plan that evening to go to church to see one of my little children that i've known since she was born and -- she was being baptized that night at church. >> reporter: surveillance cameras caught nancy's car pulling into the church parking lot shortly before six that evening. >> i got my picture with their family, and it was just a very, very special time. and then i walked on out. and got in my car and started heading home. >> reporter: it was 7:26 when nancy pulled out of the church parking lot. on the way home, she picked up dinner at a place
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called taco bueno. her reciept shows it was 7:32 when she paid for the meal. >> drove on in my driveway. lifted the garage door as i usually do. drove in. got out of my car. got up to the door. and -- didn't hear a thing. but suddenly there was a man with his arm around my neck and a gun to my head demanding my purse. and -- >> what's that feeling like? >> it didn't really register what was goin' on. so much so that i guess i didn't have quite enough fear. i don't know. because i wrestled away from him and turned and faced him. and realized, "this is for real. this guy's got a gun, robbing me." he demanded again, my purse. and i had my purse on this shoulder. and my taco bueno bag. and so i gave him my taco bueno
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bag. you know, i bet that guy was thinkin', "what is this woman doin' givin' me her -- you know, her supper. she doesn't get it." and -- and so finally, the third time, he demanded with expletives, my purse. and i finally caught on. and i reached off. and i was standing close enough to him to have an arm's length to shove my purse into his chest. and i shoved my purse into his chest. and i said, "jesus save me." and the bullet shot me right in the head and i went down. >> reporter: nancy doesn't know how long she lay unconcious on the garage floor. when she came to, the shooter was gone but she says she was not alone. >> i began to kinda come to. and i thought, "i think you've been shot. you're gonna die." and then there was another voice.
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and it was voice of my heavenly father, who is more powerful than a speeding bullet. and he said, "get up. get up." >> how much pain are you in? >> i'm in excruciating pain. but it's more the pain of not to be able to get a breath and knowing i'm simply gurgling and spitting blood the whole time and barely able to breathe, trying to have the strength. and so i ended up belly crawling. >> reporter: nancy knew she needed help fast. but her cell phone was gone. it had been in her purse -- and that had been stolen. so she crawled into her car in hopes of activating her car's emergency response system --but she couldn't get it to work. amazingly she got to her feet and walked into the house. >> and i was able to turn off my
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house alarm. the presence of mind to come up with those numbers. that's only a god thing. because i'd been shot in the head. >> reporter: she went to nearest bathroom. when she turned on the light -- she saw an absolute horror looking back at her in the mirror. that was when she called 911. >> tell me exactly what happened. >> did you still think you could die at that point? >> i did -- i didn't know if i would live. >> i've been shot. please help me -- >> what's the address, ma'am? >> and i told her. i said, "please don't leave me." she said, "no, miss howard, i will stay here with you until they come." because anyone who is fighting for their life and has called 911 knows that they could die. they don't wanna die alone. and i wanted to live. >> reporter: now three days later, nancy was able to give police a more detailed description of the man who shot her. he had a strong chin with facial hair.
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he was wearing dark rimmed glasses and a dark baseball cap. >> could you see his eyes? >> i did look him in the face and i did look him in the eyes. but i don't know how to describe what that felt like. >> did he just look blank? did he look evil? >> he looked intent on doing what he came to do. i would say he certainly had no pity, no emotion of doing to some homemaker what he was doing. >> reporter: the detectives now had something to work with. but then their investigation developed a new and surprising twist. they discovered the cell phone frank had handed over contained some jaw-dropping information. turns out frank had been keeping a secret. 3 f2 importante, aparentemente él
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>> reporter: the investigation into nancy howard's shooting was still in its early stages when detectives made a surprising discovery. remember, frank had given them his cell phone. >> would you have a problem if we ran an analysis on your cell phone? >> no. >> reporter: when they examined that phone, they realized frank wasn't the devoted husband he
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appeared to be. nancy's husband had been having an affair. >> we noticed on his cell phone that there were several text messages to a contact in his phone, which was identified as s. tahoe cell. those text messages -- it was clear from the content of those messages, that frank was involved in an extramarital affair. >> reporter: there was more. photos that showed frank with the other woman. >> there was photos on his phone of frank and this female that we believe to be the person that was sending those text messages back and forth with frank. >> reporter: the detectives asked the fbi to find out more about frank's mistress. they learned she was a 40-something mother of two teenage daughters. her name was suzanne leontieff. >> we were able to speak with suzanne and confirm that frank was in fact with her on the night nancy was shot. he had originally told us that he was in california on business. >> that was the -- a big red flag, when looking at everything.
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and we got to take a harder look at frank and what's going on with frank, because he didn't mention anything about this mistress. >> reporter: the detectives wanted to know if frank had any more secrets they should know about. so they decided to interview his children. >> we had no idea that they were looking at my dad so seriously until, you know, we got in that room and they just kept hounding and hounding and hounding on my dad. and it was, like, "you know, this line of questioning is concerning." >> they just started telling me that something's not right. "and we think that before you talk to them anymore, dad, you need to talk to a lawyer. >> reporter: why would they say that? >> because they've seen shows like "dateline nbc" and said that's what they always tell you to do. you know, they always suspect the husband, so, you know, get a lawyer. >> reporter: though frank says that at the time he didn't think innocent people needed lawyers, he hired one anyway. then he had a heart to heart with each of his kids.
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>> my dad actually called me at work and said, "you know, i got to tell you something." and he said, "the reason they're looking at me so closely is that i've been having an affair." and i was like, "crap." like, "dad! come on. don't have affairs." you know? >> reporter: yeah, that's a hard thing to hear. >> yeah, it is. and so it's -- i mean, it was, you know, a punch in the gut. it's like, this is not what's supposed to happen. you know? >> reporter: you guys were the cleavers. >> yeah, we were the cleavers. and it was, like, "okay, this is not a good situation." >> reporter: there is never a good time to get caught cheating, but getting caught by police while your wife is recovering from a gunshot wound to the head has to rank as one of the worst. now frank had to tell his family embarrassing details about his other life, the one he had been living in california with his mistress, suzanne. how did you meet her? >> we found each other basically playing at a gambling table one night. and that's kind of what started it.
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>> reporter: there was just an attraction you couldn't fight? >> yeah, that's the way i fell in love with her. i mean, i actually did. i mean, i loved her. >> reporter: for his part, frank says he wasn't trying to hide anything from police. >> i knew there was evidence of the affair. and i felt like it's going to be difficult, but i felt like that nancy and i could somehow work through that. >> reporter: did you think at all, "well, the police are going to find this information. should i just tell them?" >> no. i didn't think it was relevant to what happened to nancy, that's why i didn't think that way. i don't -- you know, it never dawned on me to make that connection. >> reporter: frank knew he had to tell nancy about the affair before the police did. but because he was now considered a suspect, the cops had asked the hospital to keep him away from nancy. now one of the most delicate conversations of frank and nancy's married life had to happen on the phone. >> he was just broken apart, just broken apart weeping. to the point that i just almost
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couldn't even understand him. >> a lot of crying, a lot of apologizing, and you know, telling her that i'm sorry about the affair and that i'm going to make it right and i'm going to do, you know, whatever i can do and i want to do that. >> reporter: was that a bomb shell for you? >> i was dumbfounded, really. i was just dumbfounded. i'm like, "really?" and i was -- i just -- i think there was a side of me that i didn't really even believe it. >> reporter: nancy had never thought of frank as the philandering type. but in hindsight, she felt their relationship changed in 2009. the year frank went to work for that rich client. a defense contractor named richard raley. raley had made millions during the iraq war, trucking supplies to the troops. he made frank his chief financial officer. and soon nancy began noticing changes at home. >> it increased our lifestyle a bit.
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we were able to do more things. but it did begin to interfere. >> reporter: with your marriage? >> with our marriage. >> reporter: how did it change your marriage? how did it make it more difficult? >> there was a lot of travel. and we became empty nesters that year. i really missed my kids. i think he really missed his kids. but i think he had his work to help fill that void. >> reporter: nancy says once frank even ditched her on new year's eve so he could be with his new business associates. >> and i just blew a gasket. >> reporter: you're really on the back burner at this point? >> uh-huh. absolutely. and i said, "okay, i'm going to counseling. because if we don't get into counseling, we're going to lose our marriage." >> reporter: did he agree to go? >> and um -- he went for a little while. and determined that he didn't feel that it was doing any good.
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>> reporter: now, as she recovered in the hospital, it was obvious to nancy why frank hadn't been interested in saving their marriage. her husband was in love with somebody else. >> i said, "where did you meet her?" and he told me. i said, "and how long has it been?" and he told me. >> reporter: three years frank told her. three years of lying. three years of living a double life. one in texas. one in california. frank wasn't proud of it. you're a preacher's son. you know better than that. >> sure, it was very wrong. and you know, and i know it now and i knew it then. i mean, i knew it going through it. it was just trying to figure out, you know, how to deal with it. >> reporter: while most men try to keep their indiscretions private, frank howard's dirty laundry was now part of a criminal investigation. but the detectives say they were determined to keep an open mind. >> i think i told michael, let's not get tunnel vision on this.
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just because he's got a girlfriend, you know, let's make sure we look outside and -- and not just key on that as a possible motive or reason for the shooting. >> reporter: so, the detectives went back to work, examining every piece of evidence they had. turns out that church surveillance tape would take their investigation in a whole, new, direction. 3 f2 investigación a otro lugar, >> reporter: had someone been stalking nancy? >> it was clear from that video that she was followed. >> she you not a random target. it appears something else is going on here. come close and lend an ear ♪ ♪ and i said hey, hey hey hey ♪
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♪ living like we're renegades ♪ ♪ renegades ♪
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>> reporter: detectives wall and turner were following all leads in their investigation into nancy howard's shooting. evaluating and re-evaluating every new scrap and tidbit that
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came their way. take nancy's purse and its contents. after the shooting, they'd had her cell phone tracked and quickly discovered her purse in a nearby dumpster. >> there were still $11 and ten cents inside the purse, the cell phone, the keys. it appeared as if all of the contents of the purse were still there. >> reporter: but what really caught their attention was the fact that her driver's license seemed to have been removed and cast aside. >> that was the only item that was taken from the purse. it was at that point in time that i became suspicious. >> reporter: if the shooter didn't want nancy's money and credit cards, then maybe he'd planned to kill her. >> why was the driver's license found separate from the wallet? >> i believe, i think you would agree, that they pulled out the driver's license out of the billfold to make sure that they had gotten nancy howard and confirmed it with her driver's license. >> reporter: working on a hunch that nancy had been marked for death, the detectives decided to take a closer look at the video
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from the security cameras at her church. >> the video clearly showed nancy arriving at the church. as she's pulling into the parking lot, there's a silver vehicle that's following in behind her. she drives around to the south side of the church and parks. that silver vehicle parks a few parking spots away from her. >> could you make out the license plate? could you make out the people in the vehicle? >> no. the video wasn't clear enough for us to see the license plate. you could tell from the video that there was two occupants, a driver and a passenger, in the front seat. >> reporter: shortly after nancy enters the church, the silver car drives away, but returns just before the church service ends. then a big moment in the case: the church cameras catch a glimpse of a possible suspect. >> the driver exits the vehicle and enters the church to use the restroom. his -- he was wearin' a hat and it was brought down partially covering his face. >> the driver comes back out and
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gets in the silver vehicle. and as nancy leaves the church service and gets in her car, she backs out and leaves the parking lot. and that vehicle follows her of the parking lot. >> is this crystal clear to you now, that nancy was a target? >> oh yeah. >> oh yeah. >> yeah. it was clear from that video that she was followed, and that they came back to the church to wait on her to leave. >> it was an exciting moment, 'cause we've got a lead now. we know that she's not just a random target. it appears that there's something else going on here. >> reporter: something else indeed. in fact, a fellow cop told them about a routine traffic stop, a month before, that suddenly seemed quite significant. >> white honda accord. >> reporter: it was in the early morning hours that carrollton police officers stopped a car about a mile from the howard home. >> so, how long you been in carrollton tonight? >> we've been trying to find my uncle's house for two, three, four hours. >> okay. the reason i ask -- 'cause i saw you guys earlier. and i see you again, and it's --
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now it's -- >> we were going in circles and circles and circles. >> reporter: there were two men in the car. they were a hundred miles from their homes in east texas. >> could you step out of the car, just for a second? i want to talk to you for a little bit. >> reporter: the driver was a 19 year old named dustin hiroms. according to the police, hiroms appeared to be high on something, possibly meth. initially he told the police that he'd come to carrollton to get money from his uncle. but seconds later he said he was looking for his stepfather. then he said his stepfather was in jail and that he was really looking for someone else. >> tell me who you are visiting here, 'cause now i'm confused. you said uncle, and then you just said -- >> his name is john, ok? >> okay. >> we always called him john, that was it. >> so john's a friend of the family? >> yes, basically. >> reporter: john? that's a name you'll hear later in this story. but at the time it meant nothing to the officers. >> we're not -- we're not tryin' to cause no problems, ma'am. >> reporter: the whole thing
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might have been forgotten except for this -- at one point hiroms blurted out that he was a hitman involved in a plot to kill a carrollton woman. at the time, it sounded like another crazy story from a drug addled teenager. police looked into it anyway, but they couldn't pin it down. hiroms was booked on minor charges and released. weeks later nancy was shot. >> the incident occurred on august the 18th where nancy was shot, it really kinda tied those two things together. >> reporter: police wondered if dustin hiroms and his buddy in the car were tied to the shooting? if nancy could pick either of those men out of a photo lineup, the detectives figured it would be case closed. >> are you thinking she's gonna be able to id one of these guys immediately? >> oh yeah. if we could get the shooter identified, i mean, that's over half the battle right there. >> so you show her the photos. and? >> she wasn't able to identify anybody from the photo lineups. >> was that a letdown? >> yeah, but it's expected.
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>> are you thinking still, she -- it still could be them, she might've just gotten it wrong? >> oh yeah. they just because she didn't identify them, that wasn't, for us to change direction, go anywhere else. we're still on the trail of those two. >> reporter: but just as they were beginning their hunt for dustin hiroms, the investigators got a call. as luck would have it, there was someone over at the county jail who claimed he had the inside story of the shooting. and it could be theirs, for a price. 3 f2 del condado que tendría el >> he is providing a lot of information that he should not know. >> an inmate that knows about the plot to murder nancy and it may be a family affair. >> certainly a strange cast of characters. some people may depict them as the hee-haw gang. >> they are about to hit the case like a monster truck.
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investigation of nancy howard's shooting detectives wall and turner got a call that would change everything. >> a denton county investigator called us and stated that billie johnson, an inmate, wanted to speak with us about the shooting. >> reporter: the detectives were intrigued and set up a meeting at the county jail.
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>> just for the record, billie, you have asked to speak with us. is that correct? >> yes sir. >> reporter: his full name was billie earl johnson. his rap sheet showed he was a career criminal, with a reputation for being mean and scrappy. a reputation billie didn't mind discussing. >> i mean i got a reputation for being a badass. i mean, i, i ain't -- everybody's claiming me to be tough and bad. i don't claim to be tough and bad. i'm mean. i'm gonna hurt you. if you jump on me, i'm gonna hurt you. >> reporter: the cops knew billie earl was a tough guy from east texas, an area about 90 miles from carrollton, home to those piney woods. billie was the ringleader of a colorful crew, many of them petty criminals, related to billie by blood or marriage. >> they're certainly a strange cast of characters. but, you know, they're east texas folks and some people might depict them as, as the hee-haw gang. >> reporter: a gang that was just getting by in a region that's struggling to make it. >> there's a lot of drugs, a lot
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of methamphetamine out there. you know, if someone makes money out there or gets, has extra money, they just hand it out to each other. >> reporter: at his meeting with investigators, billie earl was a man on a mission. he wanted to cut a deal and fast. >> i'm 49 years old. i done been to the pen a total of 15 years. >> mhmm. >> i got grand kids i want to spend the rest of my life with. i want to be free and i want out this weekend. >> reporter: billie told the cops he knew things about the shooting that they did not, including the identity of the hit team. he played hardball even as he mixed his metaphors. >> i got the big ace in the hole and i got the ball in my court on this and if y'all want this murder, this attempted murder solved. y'all need to work with me cause i ain't [ bleep ] playing. y'all want it, i'll give it to you in a [ bleep ] golden basket. >> reporter: but if the cops didn't want to play, then billie earl was going to zip it. >> i'm not giving up nothing until i got something solid on my end. >> okay. >> i'll die with it. >> he thought he was in control. >> reporter: 'cause he was sitting on an important piece of information? >> oh, yeah.
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and so i, you know, i told him, "i can't go to the d.a. with you just sayin' this. you gotta provide some information." >> reporter: so billie did. he was in jail on drug charges the night nancy was shot. but he told investigators he not only knew who ordered the hit on nancy, he knew how it went down. >> there was two of them that done it. one that was driving, pick them up, and one that pulled the trigger. now which one drove and which one pulled the trigger, i don't know. but i know both of them. >> reporter: billie told the detectives he thought the murder for hire plot began sometime around 2009. >> i was laying on couch and the phone rang. >> reporter: a stranger was on the line. >> how he got my information from them, i don't know. >> reporter: the stranger said his name was john. >> he said you don't know me, told me his name, said, "i don't know you but i was told you might be the one to do a job for me." >> reporter: the job, kill nancy howard. >> he wanted it done as an accident so it wouldn't come on him. like a carjacking or a purse-snatching.
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>> reporter: "john" was a man of means, he told the detectives who drove a lexus and communicated with a disposable drop phone. >> see that number right there? >> 1764? >> that's john's contact number if he's still got that phone. >> that's how you called him? >> yep. >> reporter: he had it memorized. and so he provided the whole phone number, which was that 1764 number. billie knew more. he could describe nancy's car. >> she ain't had it long. it's brand new. >> okay. >> it's dark blue. it's a four-door. it's like it's got a hatchback. >> he's providing a lot of information that he should not know. sop it's -- so it's pretty obvious. >> reporter: you're buying it? >> oh yeah, we're buying that he knows a lot about what's going on and that he's involved in this. >> i don't think this woman deserved what happened. >> no. she sure didn't. but if -- >> and she deserves a little bit of justice. >> yep, and she'll get it. but i, i want, i want my back scratched too. >> maybe not from you. >> i want my back scratched too. >> reporter: billie told the cops he never intended to follow through with the hit. >> i'm not going to go kill nobody. >> reporter: instead he was
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going to play john, take him for as much money as possible. and for more than two years, that's just what happened. >> how many conversations have you had with john regarding this being done? >> numerous. >> more than ten? >> yeah. >> more than twenty? >> fifty, sixty. >> reporter: detectives say it wasn't just billie playing the john game. members of billie's crew were at it as well and the cops already knew one of them. >> his name's john. okay? we always called him john, that was it. >> reporter: remember dustin hiroms? he was the young man pulled over a month before nancy was shot. he spun a crazy story that night about being a hit-man. turns out dustin is billie's stepson. maybe his story hadn't been so crazy after all. 3 f2 el sobrino de billie ¿pudo ser
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>> reporter: detectives wall and turner headed for east texas immediately after hearing details only an insider could know about the nancy howard shooting. their informant was billie earl johnson. he was the patriarch of an east texas family -- he claimed he'd been involved in a plot to kill nancy. wall and turner wanted to talk to those family members starting with billie's stepson dustin hiroms. billie earl didn't seem to think much of him. >> he's so stupid, he didn't know how to put antifreeze in a
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pickup truck. that dude -- nothing -- don't know nothing about nothing. >> reporter: dustin hiroms, remember, was the young man pulled over in nancy's neighborhood a month before she was shot. >> his name is john, ok? >> ok. >> we always called him john, that was it. >> reporter: the detectives found dustin staying with friends in a trailer. >> we were able to locate him, get him in custody and then for the next probably two and a half to three days, bryan and i spent talkin' to dustin. >> you're a good kid. got yourself messed up in a little thing, but you're a good kid. >> what was that like? >> the first night, of course, he was on meth. he was pretty upset. >> reporter: and so it was dustin scared and strung out -- who provided the detectives with new details about this man named john. a man who wanted nancy howard killed and wasn't shy about suggesting how it could be done. >> he told dustin that he wanted >> he told dustin that he wanted nancy to be robbed while she was stayin' at the hotel in grapevine. and he wanted it done with a baseball bat. >> reporter: john provided a
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photo of her, details about her schedule and even suggested nancy be killed while scrapbooking with friends. >> she didn't do nothing wrong. she's a christian woman, dude. that's it. you know? >> who shared with you that she was a christian woman? >> john did. >> reporter: dustin told the detectives john liked to spread his money around. >> he started layin' out the whole thing regarding his stepdad, billie johnson, his mom, meetings with john. large sums of money bein' transferred. he started throwing out some big numbers and we asked him, "you know, those sound -- you know is that bs?" he goes, "no," 'cause he was talkin' right in the millions. >> sounds hard to believe? >> yeah. and so he -- he lays out -- including his grandmother -- receivin' money -- billie's other children that were involved. >> reporter: soon dustin says members of the johnson clan were calling "john" whenever they needed money. >> when they're in jail and
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can't get bonded out, then he decides, short story, that he decides, "well, i can do this," and started gettin' all this money. >> 'cause it's the atm machine -- >> exactly. >> reporter: at one point, dustin said "john" gave him $24,000 to carry out the hit -- money that he promptly spent on meth or gave away. >> he had $8,000 blow off his car, he told us, at a church parking lot. >> didn't care? >> i said, "did you go back and get it?" "nah, i didn't --" go, "are -- are you kiddin' me?" >> 'cause -- >> "no, i -- i'll get more." >> reporter: as the investigators dug deeper, they learned that nearly a dozen people from east texas knew about the plot to kill nancy. charlie louderman was one of them. >> so, have you heard about the shooting in carrollton? >> yeah, i heard about it. >> everybody else heard about it, and do you know who's involved with it? >> yeah. >> who's that? >> billie earl johnson and, uh, mr. john. >> mr. john. so, you know mr. john? >> yeah -- i know mr. john. >> reporter: charlie louderman was one of the few who was not related by blood or marriage to billie earl johnson.
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>> billie earl johnson. he's one mad son of a bitch. >> reporter: charlie, who started out as a bodyguard for billie earl, says billie and "mr. john" tried to get him to shoot nancy howard. >> this [ bleep ] man, he tried to get me to kill that woman. >> did he really? 'cause he -- >> do you want the truth? >> yeah, i want the truth. >> you got that recorder on? yeah. >> i gotta have the truth. >> yeah, you're [ bleep ] right that son of a bitch tried to get me to kill that woman. >> reporter: now out of jail, charlie told us that sometimes john transferred money between bank accounts and sometimes john met charlie and billy and handed over packages of cash at a hamburger joint or gas station, and john was always pressing them to get the hit done. >> i mean he was, "hey, do you think you can get it done now? what's the chances?" you know, "where are y'all at?" billie would tell him, "you know, hey, we're -- we're about an hour away. we'll call you when we get close." "okay, well, call me when you've got confirmation." you know, "i want -- i want this thing done."
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and i was like, "damn, what did this lady do?" >> reporter: as long as "john" was willing to pay, charlie says billie and his family were willing to talk about killing nancy. and every time the hit didn't happen, john wanted to know why. billie was the master of outlandish excuses. >> he had a brain tumor. he had seizures. he had spells. he'd done too much dope. the neighbors were home. he [ bleep ] him just as far as he could take it. and john would buy it hook, line and sinker every time. >> reporter: as far as charlie could tell, mr. john was a fool who had more money than common sense. >> i told him, "you're either you're a cop, or you are a chicken [ bleep ]. because who would pay $400,000 -- what did this woman do that -- that you wanna pay $400,000 to kill her? it'd be a lot cheaper to kill her yourself.
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>> reporter: mr. john's big money scheme to kill nancy howard was an economic bonanza for east texas. according to charlie, billie earl couldn't seem to spend that money fast enough. >> motorcycles. vehicles for his children, all three of 'em. a car for his mother. three or four four-wheelers, a couple go-karts for the grandkids. a ski boat. he bought me a riding mower, a four-wheelerm, numerous assault weapons, just anything he wanted. >> reporter: and so for more than two years the murder plot bankrolled by john killed nothing but time. >> they didn't follow through with it 'cause they wanted more money. >> they have been called the hee-haw gang. but they were very valuable to you, all of these characters. >> it would've been a tough case if we only had one or two of them as witnesses. but when we have this number of people involved, someone either is telling the truth, or someone handed out a script to all these people with all the information. 'cause it was all the same information. >> reporter: the east texas
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>> reporter: throughout the piney woods of east texas detectives turner and wall heard the same refrain. a man named john was paying top dollar to rid the earth of a church lady named nancy howard. to hear the east texans tell it, "john" was a murky blend of money and murderous intent. but a picture snapped by one of the locals of the man they called john made everything crystal clear. john was frank howard. >> bryan turner there is a photograph of -- frank howard sitting in his gray lexus. and in the foreground of the picture, billy johnson's sitting on his motorcycle. >> reporter: he may have been
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frank to his friends and mr. john to the east texans, but in truth he was both. his full name was john franklin howard. >> john franklin howard. >> a.k.a. frank? >> frank, frank, yeah. >> reporter: three names for a man who'd evidently been living three lives: one with his wife in carrollton, one with his mistress, in california and a third one with the east texas crowd. >> it was a surprise just based on bein' the beaver cleaver family, bein' involved with the church. it was unusual. >> reporter: so eight days after nancy was shot, the detectives returned to the scene of the crime. this time they had a warrant. >> and i'm sitting there watching tv, and -- and -- and working. and -- and the police show up at the -- at the door to arrest me. and that was very -- i've never -- you know, i have no clue what's goin' on and what's happening. >> they just put you in the car
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and -- and took you to the station? >> yeah. yeah. >> reporter: the charge: solicitation for murder. frank's children were in shock. their father may have had an affair, they thought. but hiring hitmen? that made no sense. >> it's a very specific type of evil person that tries to kill their spouse. and my dad is just not that person. you know, having an affair is a human mistake. trying to murder someone is not human. no human would do that. and i'm sorry, my dad is a human. >> humans make mistakes. >> it was such a huge leap -- >> uh-huh. >> to what they were accusing him of. and i had never felt like my dad hated the kids enough to do that to our mom and he never hated my mom, never talked poorly about my mom enough to do that. >> reporter: even nancy refused to believe that her husband of nearly 30 years could have orchestrated a plot to have her killed.
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>> well, you know, i was totally in shock. this is so far from anything, first of all, that i ever dreamed that i would be involved in. but second of all i mean, it -- it all came at the same time. i'm shot. and then, i find out my husband has been having a three-year. affair. i was in disbelief. it was so farfetched. >> reporter: his friends felt the same way. in fact, frank was so well regarded in carrollton that his friends offered to post his $1 million dollar bond. at his bond hearing, witness after witness testified to his character and sterling reputation. even denton county prosecutor, jamie beck, was impressed. >> people from his church, people from his community, clients, current clients came forward and packed the courtroom for a bond hearing, which is just unheard of. they took the stand. they -- you know, just sang his praises on what a good guy he was. >> reporter: though he quickly bonded out of jail, the
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investigators were convinced frank howard was behind the attempt on his wife's life. not only could they prove he'd been having an affair and that he'd paid hundred's of thousands of dollars to a bunch of make-believe hitmen, they also had a picture of him meeting with one of them. still, a crucial element for solving this case was missing. >> we're still knee deep in the middle of this. we don't have the shooter identified. and everyone that we have arrested up until this point, we can only confirm that they're involved in a solicitation to have nancy killed. >> reporter: which is not to say that they didn't get some useful hints from the east texans. >> dustin hiroms, he gives us the name of michael speck. and michael speck is billie johnson's nephew. >> reporter: the investigators zeroed in on that name, michael speck. a search of jail recordings of billie earl johnson's phone calls soon revealed a surprise. not only did they hear billie earl talking about somebody named michael, they also heard another familiar
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voice. it was the voice of frank howard. >> i can get out of here, which will take about a month to get out of here, but i need some money. >> well, that's part of my problem. i mean, what -- what -- what happened to michael? i gave him a bunch of money. >> how much you give him? >> i don't even know anymore, it's been so long. >> did you give him 20? >> uh, at least. >> it's clear from those phone conversations at the jail that frank's directly involved in orchestrating this. >> michael's got everything i had left. he said he could take care of everything. >> reporter: even though the police were sure michael speck was one of the men in that silver car, they had no idea who the other man was. then a few months later, a call out of the blue provided the break they'd been looking for. the caller sounded credible because she knew details that only the shooter and nancy would know. for instance, in a flustered moment nancy had handed her bag of food to the shooter. >> my ears perked up, and i felt
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like she had some pretty good information about who was responsible for shooting nancy. >> reporter: the caller led them eventually to the alleged shooter. his name was also michael, michael lorance. he and speck had been prison cellmates. >> this is like six degrees of separation. >> it is. >> everyone in this case. >> yeah, and -- and all the puzzle pieces were startin' to come together for us. >> reporter: the cops were finally able to put both michaels in that silver car on the night nancy was shot. it would now be up to a jury to decide whether frank howard had paid them to kill his wife. 3 f2 decir si frank howard había >> very questionable characters. >> absolutely. >> how do you get the jury to believe what they are saying?
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>> reporter: in the months after nancy howard was shot in the face and left for dead she tried to move on. she divorced frank and found embrace of her faith and family. >> isn't that pretty? she even enjoyed happy moments when the shooting was almost forgotten. like the day her youngest daughter got married and frank walked brianna down the aisle. >> it was very special that he was able to do that. and for me, there was, you know, never a doubt in my mind that my dad would be walking me down the aisle. >> and we actually had a very good time.
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it was a very joyful time. i can remember walking with him and then saying, "well, we ended up doing this together after all, didn't we?" >> reporter: hard to imagine? not really if you remember that frank and nancy always put family first. for a long time nancy refused to believe the worst about frank. as the months passed, she had a change of heart though she kept hoping she was wrong. >> i believe he had relationships with the kind of people who would do something like this. but i am gonna let the jury make the decision on whether he called the shot. >> reporter: so you're not ready to say he ordered -- >> i'm not ready to say that. >> reporter: -- the hit. >> reporter: denton county prosecutor jamie beck was ready to say that and a lot more. >> i try not to get too personally involved, so to speak. but i just, i did not like him. i did not like the, the good versus evil aspect to him and the manipulation that i felt.
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>> reporter: in early august 2014, frank howard went on trial for attempted capital murder. prosecutors started with nancy's 911 call. >> lord jesus help me. oh my god, help me. oh jesus help me. >> reporter: it was an emotional opening punch, one that left frank visibly shaken as did nancy's testimony about her injuries and overwhelming feelings of betrayal. >> i was married to a man named frank howard. for the majority of our marriage, i was married to frank howard. but when john walked in the door, he started taking over. frank was a man who was loving and kind. he had integrity. john, john was about himself. >> reporter: prosecutors laid out their theory. john, a.k.a. frank howard, had hired a hit man to kill his wife. but for more than two years, he'd ended up throwing money at
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one potential killer after another to get the job done. this group of characters, some people have even called them "the heehaw gang." >> yes. >> reporter: very questionable characters. >> absolutely. >> reporter: with long rap sheets. how do you get the jury to believe what they're saying? >> when you're gonna go out and hire a hitman, you're not gonna hire a good person off the street. you're gonna hire a criminal. you're gonna hire somebody with a seedy past and that's willing to do that, that job. >> reporter: if orange is the new black, this was a fashionable crowd. on the stand the witnesses from east texas corroborated each other's stories. they testified they'd received money from a man named "john" to kill his wife. they had communicated with "john" by calling his drop phone. and each of them said that "john" and frank were one and the same. charlie louderman says "john" didn't seem happy to see his east texas friends again. >> he didn't wanna see me there. he didn't like that.
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he was twirlin' his pen. pop, pop like a principal gonna give me some licks. >> reporter: charlie told the jury about seeing vast sums of money change hands. >> sometimes it'd be $5,000, sometimes it'd be $80,000. i counted $83,000 on my bedroom floor. >> reporter: investigators were able to "follow the money" on frank's computers. they found wire transfer receipts that added up to more than three quarters of a million dollars. assistant prosecutor, rick daniel. it sounds hard to believe that frank, the accountant, the meticulous numbers guy, is just throwing around money? and not only throwing around money, but they're documenting it. they're wire transfers. it's hard to believe. >> right, it, at first, it was all cash, and i think he just kind of got tired of having to go and meet and once he started with the wire transfer, i think he probably realized that, you know, it's done. might as well keep going and i think he just kept trying to get a solution to his problem by
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just throwing more money at it. >> reporter: though none of the east texans who testified about getting that money had actually done the job they were paid to do most were charged with conspiracy to commit murder. still jamie beck and her team wanted to link frank to the men who they believe actually shot nancy, the men in the silver car. first they tried to establish that frank had paid the alleged driver. they played a snippet of the jailhouse call recorded a few weeks before the shooting. >> and so i basically, you know, gave michael every, i, i said, "i'm all in with you buddy," because, i said, "i don't know what else to do." >> you can't, you can't -- >> so i went all in with him. >> reporter: even more incriminating, prosecutors said phone records proved frank was communicating with the alleged driver the day of the shooting. as for the alleged shooter, the other michael, the prosecution called a witness who testified he confessed to her the night nancy was shot. jamie beck summed up that testimony. >> he does a full out confession.
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i've murdered someone. i shot a woman in the forehead in her garage. took her food and her purse and then we dumped everything on the way back. >> reporter: both the michaels have pleaded not guilty and are scheduled to go on trial this summer. as for motive, the prosecutors told the court that was as old as time. frank had another woman. and this was no casual fling. they presented evidence of frank's devotion, the flowers, letters and cards he sent to suzanne leontieff when he wasn't with her. police also discovered frank had spent enormous sums of money on his mistress. >> i think the figure that he had given suzanne was $1.9 million. ultimately we discovered that they had purchased a home together in california. they had purchased a condo in lake tahoe together. he had given her $500,000 in cash.
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and so it's my understanding that she's a dental hygienist, and i'm not sure what her salary is, but she was certainly living a life of, with a lot of money from frank. >> reporter: the pictures police found of suzanne on frank's cell phone show a happy couple. but suzanne had grown tired of being the other woman. she began putting pressure on frank to get a divorce. the police found a letter from frank, dated december 2011, eight months before the shooting, pleading for patience. >> reporter: one of the lines from one of those letters was, "all i know to do is to get things done and hope you're still around." what do you think he meant by, "to get things done?" >> well, you would notice he never says "divorce" in some of the paperwork, never talks about divorce, as far as i know. >> suzanne is certainly pressing him to get divorced and to be in california. >> reporter: so what do you think he meant by, "to get things done?" >> i think he meant follow through with killing nancy. >> reporter: in this text sent a few months before nancy's shooting suzanne wrote, "i'm so sick of being alone.
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you need to file by this friday or move on. i have waited long enough." prosecutors said that affair was frank's motive. so all eyes were on suzanne when she took the stand. >> she believed that he was in a loveless marriage. that he was basically separated from his wife, but living under the same roof for convenience sake, but in separate bedrooms. >> reporter: how important was the mistress's testimony, suzanne? >> you know, i don't think suzanne had any kind of knowledge about any of this. i don't think she knew that there was a murder for hire plot. i don't think she knew about any association with criminals. i think suzanne fully believed just like everybody else around frank, they take him at his word. and they believe him. >> reporter: prosecutors told the jury that for a family man like frank, divorce was not an option. but, they argued murder was. >> i mean, it didn't have to happen. a divorce was the solution. >> reporter: frank was with
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suzanne in california on the day nancy was shot even so he still found time to send an email to his wife. prosecutor jamie beck read it to the jury, in her closing argument. >> "i know you have a busy day today." cause he knows her schedule he's provided it to the two michaels. "so i will try to call you sometime today. i love you and can't wait to get home to you." that's sick. that is sick. he wanted to get home to her casket. that's what he wanted to come home to. >> reporter: on august 18th, 2014, two years to the day after nancy was shot, the prosecution rested. now it was the defense's turn to convince the jury that all those east texans were lying and that frank never paid anyone to kill his wife. 3 f2 frank nunca pagó un centavo para
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>> reporter: frank howard was a confident man, or at least he claimed to be when he spoke to us a few months before his trial began. did you have anything to do with your wife being shot that day in your garage? >> no. no, i did not. i absolutely did not. >> reporter: nevertheless defense attorneys jerry cobb and ricky perritt knew they had their work cut out for them when
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they rose to frank howard's defense. >> the state put on a large, large amount of evidence. they showed a lot of money being transferred, they showed the affair, they showed sympathetic pictures of, of the poor lady shot in the head when she's at the hospital. >> reporter: powerful images to be sure. but the prosecution's case, they argued, simply didn't make sense. >> it was really incredible to hear the allegations that a man would have spent the kind of money that they said was spent, in order to have someone shot. and, particularly in light of the fact that, when you saw all the people that were sayin' he paid 'em, lookin' at the kinda people they were. >> reporter: so the first line of defense was, don't trust anybody who wears prison garb to court. >> i just believe that the, that when the jurors look at the case, and they see how these people are liars, they're criminals, they're drug users. that they won't lend any credibility to, and if they don't believe those people, they can't convict him for attempted capital murder. >> you got all these people who supposedly got hundreds of
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thousands of dollars to kill somebody, and they're not even being prosecuted. i mean, it makes no sense. >> reporter: not only that, but, the defense argued, some of their stories were just too fantastic to be believed, take one from charlie louderman. he testified that some of frank howard's cash had come from the middle east in body bags. it was money that literally reeked of death. >> some of it had, hair with blood stuck to it. some of it had burn marks on it. and i said, "what in the hell is that awful damn smell?" and billie looked at me and said, "you know that's how we're gettin' that money in here, is on dead bodies comin' from kuwait in the caskets." >> reporter: the defense called that claim outrageous. >> just crazy things, crazy. $80,000 or $100,000 in cash comin' back in the body cavities of dead soldiers from iraq. i mean, this man had crazy things. >> reporter: the defense
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attorneys not only challenged the credibility of billie earl and his crew, they told the jurors the real reason frank howard was in contact with the east texas crowd boiled down to one word -- blackmail. >> you take a guy who's been a straight arrow all of his life, has a great reputation in his hometown, i'm sure it would bother him if the people at church knew he had an affair, knew he had a girlfriend, knew he went to las vegas, things like that. i think all those things would go into a reason for them to blackmail him and him to pay 'em money. >> his reputation was everything? >> sure, and his family. >> reporter: frank's daughter ashley agrees. >> you see all this money going out to all of these really shady people. you never really see a return. there's no action. so, my belief is that he was being blackmailed. >> for the affair? >> i -- i can't say what. my dad was a really generous person. maybe somewhere in there, you know, it was, "hey, give a guy a second chance. help me out." and then it just snowballed into either threatening his family or
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telling about the affair. i mean, i -- i don't know. so, i think it probably started as a generous, you know, give grace to somebody, help another human, and became something way out of his control. >> reporter: according to the defense, frank stopped paying members of the johnson clan weeks before the shooting. and that, frank's attorneys suggested, could be the reason nancy was shot. >> do you think that this was payback to frank because the money train had stopped? >> i believe it was something to get the money going again. i believe they were sendin' him a message, you know, you're not gonna quit payin' us. >> very well could be that, and also, you know, they may not have really intended to kill nancy. you know, the guy's standin' right there, he shoots her in the head. she's still conscious. if he's gonna kill her, why didn't he shoot her again? >> reporter: frank did not take the stand in his own defense. but all three of the howard children did. >> was it hard to take the stand in the trial, knowing what was
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at stake? >> it definitely was, because, you know, i wanted to be there for my dad. and i wanted to do things and say things that gave a different perspective to, "he's not this man that you're talking about." he's imperfect, absolutely. but he's a good person." >> you could've been his best weapon, his own children, standing behind him. >> when we say that we support our dad, it's not a blind support. it's a well thought out support. and it's a reasoned support. and we've been able to separate the feelings about the affair from the feelings about his involvement in this criminal scheme. >> reporter: in closing, the defense attorneys urged jurors to ask themselves one question. did the prosecutors' theory of why and how frank howard plotted his wife's murder, make any sense? >> where in the world has any evidence been told to you that divorces is unacceptable to mr. howard? he's already had a divorce, he's been married once, you know that. look at the evidence and ask yourself if that's what that means.
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>> and i do not believe as reasonable people, you can convict someone on the testimony of the kind of people they brought in here that their house of cards has to be built on, and it starts with billie johnson and it ends with billie johnson. because i do not believe that's the kind of evidence in this country that we want to use to convict someone of a crime to deprive them of their liberty if they're convicted. >> reporter: the jury now held frank howard's fate in its hands. >> reporter: children by his side. >> it was my dad all the way. >> reporter: a wife still torn. >> i tried to keep my heart open. >> reporter: the man of rock-solid character, or this cast of characters? who would the jury believe? this ad is as simple as our new artisan grilled chicken. no preservatives. no added colors.
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>> reporter: they'd once called themselves the beaver cleaver family. close, wholesome, and picture perfect. if nothing else, john franklin howard's attempted capital murder trial proved that image was as dated as a black and white rerun. nancy sat on the prosecution side of the courtroom, surrounded by her friends and family. and frank's supporters sat across the aisle behind the defense table. as for the children, when they were in the courtroom they almost always sat on their dad's side of the aisle. >> for me, i was just very, you know, focused on -- on the goal, focused on what we're here for. and it was my dad all the way. >> reporter: the tension and stress caused by the howard children's devotion to their father was at times etched on
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nancy's face. >> i'm trying to -- trying to understand. you have to understand they had continual contact with their father for the past two years. and they, too, wanted to believe that their father was the same man. >> reporter: after ten days of testimony and a mountain of evidence, jurors might have been expected to be out a while. >> has the jury reached a verdict in this case? >> reporter: but they weren't. >> yes, we have your honor. >> and is that a unanimous verdict of each and every one of the twelve jurors in this case? >> yes, it is. >> please hand that to the bailiff. >> reporter: it had taken just 90 minutes of deliberation for the jury to reach a decision. >> we the jury find the defendant john howard guilty of the offense of attempted capital murder as alleged in the indictment. >> reporter: when you heard that word, "guilty," what's going through your mind? >> just complete heartbreak. but yet, it was also peace because it was finally over.
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>> my gut reaction is, "well, now we have to appeal." >> reporter: so you didn't even let the guilty -- >> no, i didn't-- >> reporter: process-- >> no. i mean, because for me, that -- i mean, that was the plan. not guilty, we move on. guilty, we appeal. there's no, "let's all cry and hold hands and be sad because dad is in jail for --" no. we're going to appeal. >> reporter: it's probably easier to cope that way, i would think. >> yeah, at first there's kind of shock. >> uh-huh. >> and then it's like, you're just angry. you're angry that they didn't be as, you know, you don't feel like they got the truth. >> you may be seated, sir. >> reporter: there wasn't much time to let it all sink in. in texas, after a guilty verdict, the trial immediately moves to the punishment phase. >> i knew that he potentially could get a very harsh sentence. i mean after all, this was such an act of betrayal and such a violent act and such a senseless act. but i knew what a great person everyone around him believed him to be. >> reporter: prosecutors were
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determined to show a less sympathetic portrait of frank to overcome any pleas for leniency. they put a surprise witness on the stand. frank's rich client, richard raley. raley, wearing orange due to a probation violation on a drug charge, told the court that in addition to being an adulterer and "would be wife killer", frank howard was also a thief. according to raley, frank embezzled millions from him. prosecutors said frank stole money to finance the plot to murder nancy. >> reporter: some people might have a hard time wrapping their head around the fact that he was just so haphazardly giving out money. >> yes. >> reporter: just freely giving it out. >> just freely giving it out. the only way i can explain that is when you don't earn the money, when it's not from your hard work and efforts, it has no value. as a matter of fact, for the two years i called it his monopoly money. the money didn't have meaning to him other than how he could use
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it to manipulate poeple. >> reporter: the defense denied that frank took anything from richard raley that he wasn't entitled to. >> there's no evidence other than from mr. raley that frank ever got the money illegally. that's another story in itself. in fact, there is a civil lawsuit concerning that. >> reporter: whether or not frank howard was a thief probably didn't matter much in this case. the jury took only four hours to decide he should spend the rest of his life in prison. you went into this, though, hoping that there was a chance that maybe he didn't call the shots. >> right. >> reporter: on this. >> right. i did. i tried to keep my heart open. >> reporter: so, you have no doubt in your mind now that -- >> absolutely. >> reporter: that frank called the shots on your attempted murder? >> absolutely. john called the shots. >> reporter: it's almost like an alter ego. >> yep. it is. >> i want to say john howard, you messed up, buddy.
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>> reporter: perhaps nobody knew john better than the east texas crowd. charlie louderman, in full finger wagging mode, says john howard got what he deserved. >> you're smart. and you hired an idiot to do your dirty work. >> reporter: charlie says he regrets he ever got involved with billie johnson and he's remorseful about what happened to nancy. >> i carry a lot of guilt over her injury with her eye. because she just looked like a really happy lady in the pictures to me. and to john's pictures to me. and to john's pictures to me. and to john's pictures to me. and to john's children i'm sorry, because your dad did it, you know? there's no getting around it. >> reporter: but nancy's children still believe their father is innocent and have high hopes that his conviction will eventually be overturned on appeal. there are going to be people watching this, saying, you two girls are delusional. your dad was found guilty of trying to have your mom killed, and here you are supporting your dad. >> i get that. but i would say those people
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that think that we're delusional have not shared our experiences. they haven't sat down -- they haven't gone to jail, sat behind that glass, picked up that phone and talked to this same man that they've been talking to for the last 28 years. you can say all day long, "oh, that poor girl. you know, she just wants to support her dad." let's be very clear. i think that justice needs to be served. i don't think it has been. and i think it's unfortunate that now we're all going to say we've gotten justice for my mom and that man is a terrible human being. and the truth is, there's no justice for my mom and now there's no justice for my dad. >> reporter: though the sisters concede the family's bonds have been strained. they insist those bonds have not been broken entirely. do you hope that as time goes on things can be healed with your mother? >> oh, absolutely. it's a very raw time a big life event happened. a big change happened. so, we're all having to process
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what we feel and then come back together and really sort it out. >> reporter: the future for the howard family? >> we were a strong family then. we're going to be a strong family in the future. and those two are not going to look the same, but that's okay. we're going to figure it out. >> reporter: for her part, nancy says she has forgiven and is moving on with her life. she stays busy addressing church groups as an inspirational speaker. and she prays time will eventually heal the damage done during that blistering summer of 2012. >> deep in my heart, my heart is broken. because that's -- i would have loved to continue being the beaver cleaver family. i would have loved to continue being married to frank. because i loved that man with all my heart. and that man loved me at some point.
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but it was obviously a change in . anything for a poor cripple? in the name of jesus of nazareth rise up and walk. [ crowd murmuring ] god made jesus lord and messiah. silence them now. aah! peter! john...we may never leave here. pilate will visit the temple on pentecost. boaz, this is the abomination the prophets talked about. then our time has come. cornelius! i hope your cause is worth dying for. i hope yours is. cornelius: marcus drusus was found murdered. we've arrested a group of men in the area. execute them. deliver the assassin to us. peter and john: blessed be the name of his glorious kingdom forever and ever.

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